Time requirements: 20-50 minutes

Special features: The case-study method was pioneered at the Harvard law and business schools. Business and law cases tend to be very detailed and long, and take several classes to analyze, but instructors can apply a simplified case-study method (described below) for teaching in many disciplines. Applying theory to an instance as described by some source material can demonstrate the applicability of the course material beyond the classroom. A good case study:

  • Presents students with a situation they can relate to from their own life experience.
  • Includes realistic information. Examples can include scripts of exchanges that took place between key parties, news articles about situations of interest, background information about the organization of interest, etc.
  • Has a conflict that students can resolve.


  1. Get source material (short story, news articles, account of a decision or procedure, video, role-play script, etc.) to use as the basis for the case study.
  2. Provide students with a focus or framework to use in doing their analysis.
  3. Give students time to analyze the case individually or in groups, and to write down their analysis.
  4. Begin a discussion of students’ analyses.
  5. Act as a mediator of the discussion. Don’t offer your own opinion except to provide guidance on the process (remind students of the framework if discussion becomes unfocused).
  6. After analysis has been completed, show how the case study illustrates application of theoretical or background concepts in course material.

Function in the class: Use a case study to lead into a discussion or lecture of course material, showing its relevance by referring back to the case study.